Distressed families are flooding psychiatrists with pleas for help for children hooked on computer games and the Internet.
The condition known as "pathological Internet misuse" is growing so rapidly among adolescents and young adults that it could soon be formally recognized as a mental health disorder.
International mental health experts are considering including "video game addiction and Internet addiction" in the next edition of globally recognized Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders "to encourage further study."
One mother said her 13-year-old son was so addicted to computer games he attended school only intermittently over the past two years and violently resisted attempts to remove him from the screen.
"He starts punching holes through the walls, throwing things around and threatening you ... all this has to do with the most addictive game 'World Of Warcraft,'" she said.
Parents have told of children as young as 10 being found asleep at their home computer when they are due to leave for school because they have been up much of the night playing video games such as 'Minecraft.'
Mental health specialists believe formal recognition of internet addiction will put pressure on governments to make more treatment options available for victims.
Leading researchers this week will launch the first online mental health education program aimed at weaning youngsters off their addiction, following revelations school children have been offered live-in treatment at adolescent psychiatric facilities.
Psychiatrist Philip Tam believes internet addiction should be classified as a disorder.
Dr. Tam, a leader in the field, said a website would be launched this week to help caregivers, families and counselors "address the growing and complex problem of Internet addiction."
"The Internet and its functions have proved to be overwhelmingly positive, empowering and enjoyable allowing millions to connect, be informed, and entertained like no other technology before," Tam said.
"However, for a small but significant minority this ... can lead to social, educational and behavioral difficulties. This particularly seems to appear in young people and in those with predisposing mental/behavioral vulnerabilities."